Noble Sissle

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Noble Sissle was an American jazz lyricist, composer, singer, playwright and band leader. Above is Sissle’s 1928 version of Westward Bound.

Sissle was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 10, 1889. his parents were very religious but loved music. He joined the 369th Regimental Band led by the great James Reese Europe. During this time, he also met Eubie Blake who he collaborated with for years after the death of Europe.

Noble Sissle was one of African-American music’s unsung tradition-builders. As half of the duo that composed Shuffle Along, he helped to bring African-American creativity to a new level on the Broadway stage. As a bandleader, Sissle nurtured the careers of vocalist Lena Horne and other important musicians, and he participated fundamentally in the popularization of African-American jazz and pop in Europe. Sissle went on to compose memorable jazz tunes like I’m Just Wild About Harry and Shuffle Along. His song Viper Mad was in Woody Allen’s film Sweet and Lowdown.

Photojournalist Bill Hudson

This week Flavorwire listed the ten most essential Civil Rights photographers. As we looked at the photos, We wanted to focus on Bill Hudson, an Associated Press photographer at that time. His images reminds us of the Arab Spring that shocked the world in 2011. Freedom doesn’t come without struggle. As we begin this new year, it is our hope that we can move from protest to real action that would lead to real hope.

The Story Behind the Photo:
On July 15, 1963, photographer Bill Hudson snapped this photograph as members of the Birmingham Fire Department turned their hoses full force on civil rights demonstrators. It wasn’t the first time that Hudson and other photographers and cameramen of the era captured such striking images that stirred the nation’s moral consciousness and inspired national and international support for the black struggle for equal rights. In an interview years later, Hudson said that his only priorities were “making pictures and staying alive” and not getting hit by one of those high-pressure water hoses or bit by a dog.

In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition led a strategic campaign in Birmingham, Alabama that was aimed at ending the city’s segregation policies and practices. Through sit-ins, kneel-ins, boycotts, marches, and mass meetings, demonstrators also hoped to pressure business leader s to open retail jobs and employment to people of all races. By intentionally provoking arrest through non-violent direct action, King believed that if they could “crack Birmingham” then they could “crack the South” and dismantle Jim Crow.

Birmingham’s Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor, a staunch segregationist, promised bloodshed if demonstrators continued to defy the law. When the city’s jails became crowded with thousands of demonstrators and there weren’t enough squad cars to make arrests, Conner, whose authority extended to the fire department, ordered hoses to be turned on demonstrators.

To Connor’s surprise, and to the dismay of the Kennedy administration and some black civil rights leaders, King and local leaders of the SCLC, in a controversial move, recruited children as young as eight years old to participate in demonstrations. They were taught how to protect their heads, huddle together on the ground when hit with water jet, and how to be arrested. Hudson and other cameramen captured images of young demonstrators clutching poles, being sprayed against store windows, and women being lifted over the tops of cars. They took shots of young boys’ shirts being ripped off and their bodies being rolled down the streets water pressure set at a level that was strong enough to peel bark off trees and separate brick from mortar.

In the backgrounds of these images, onlookers can sometimes be seen taunting police officers and firefighters, and tossing broken concrete, rocks and bottles in a futile effort to stop the abuse by authorities. And other times, as in the case of the photo captured above, blacks can be seen behind the strong white mist with their hands on their hips, shoulders dropped, and hands by their side, helpless and perhaps contemplating the irony that the very people who were supposed to protect the public had become villains.

The Real History of Kwanzaa

Many believe that Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies, scholar/activist and author is the creator of Kwanzaa. Mr. Karenga was able to codify the holiday with African references and influences but the spirit of the holiday originated with Julius Kambarage Nyerere. Though he was a suspicious of capitalism, his aim politically and culturally was to improve his country and all of Africa.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere (13 April 1922 – 14 October 1999) was a Tanzanian politician who served as the first President of Tanzania and previously Tanganyika, from the country’s founding in 1961 until his retirement in 1985.

Born in Tanganyika to Nyerere Burito (1860–1942), Chief of the Zanaki, Nyerere was known by the Swahili name Mwalimu or ‘teacher’, his profession prior to politics. He was also referred to as Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation). Nyerere received his higher education at Makerere University in Kampala and the University of Edinburgh. After he returned to Tanganyika, he worked as a teacher. In 1954, he helped form the Tanganyika African National Union.

In 1961, Nyerere was elected Tanganyika’s first Prime
Minister, and following independence, in 1962, the country’s first President. In 1964, Tanganyika became politically united with Zanzibar and was renamed to Tanzania. In 1965, a one-party election returned Nyerere to power. Two years later, he issued the Arusha Declaration, which outlined his socialist vision of ujamaa that came to dominate his policies.

Nyerere retired in 1985, while remaining the chairman of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi. He died of leukemia in London in 1999. In 2009, Nyerere was named “World Hero of Social Justice” by the president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Cultural Influence

Nyerere continued to influence the people of Tanzania in the years following his presidency. His broader ideas of socialism live on in the rap and hip hop artists of Tanzania. Nyerere believed socialism was an attitude of mind that barred discrimination and entailed equality of all human beings. Therefore, ujamaa can be said to have created the social environment for the development of hip hop culture. Like in other countries, hip hop emerged in post-colonial Tanzania when divisions among the population were prominent, whether by class, ethnicity or gender. Rappers’ broadcast messages of freedom, unity, and family, topics that are all reminiscent of the spirit Nyerere put forth in ujamaa. In addition, Nyerere supported the presence of foreign cultures in Tanzania saying, “a nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics…[but] to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own.” Under his leadership, the Ministry of National Culture and Youth was created in order to allow Tanzanian popular culture, in this case hip hop, to develop and flower. As a result of Nyerere’s presence in Tanzania, the genre of hip hop was welcomed from overseas in Tanzania and melded with the spirit of ujamaa.

To learn more about the Arusha Declaration, go to the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arusha_Declaration

Mark Bradford

Interview of the artist Mark Bradford. He talks about how he makes do with materials that he finds. That has been apart of African American life from the beginning in this country. Adjusting to a new world and crafting a way to live, to express oneself and honor that life. In tribute to our enduring spirit and the 20th anniversary of the re-discovery of the African Burial Ground.

Interior Tour of The African Burial Ground

WNET reflects on the African Burial Ground at the Outdoor Memorial

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the African Burial Ground, NY Daily News experienced a tour with National Park Service Ranger Cyrus Forman.

Howard University was there from the beginning

Howard University

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Shortly after the end of the Civil War, members of The First Congregational Society of Washington considered establishing a theological seminary for the education of African American clergymen. within a few weeks, the project expanded to include a provision for establishing a university. The new institution was named for General Oliver Otis Howard, a Civil War Hero, who was both a founder of the University and a Commissioner of the Freedmen Bureau.

It was only fitting that Howard University led the excavation project, analyzed the remains and documented the results.

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Gumboot Juba


Dianne Smith, one of the commentators for Westward Bound is an accomplished artist and teacher herself. In collaboration with the West Harlem Art Fund and Armory Week 2011, the window installation Gumboot Juba was presented. Juba, Pattin’ Juba or Guiba is the name of the dance (of West African influence) the slaves did on southern plantations, in the Caribbean and Dutch Guiana. The sounds and movement took the place of the drums.

Please view the images of this stunning installation that was seen at the Mink Building in West Harlem.

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